This whole journey has been such a whirlwind, especially as a site leader who had never been to Bulgaria and had no experience in issues of hunger when the process began. I am amazed at the amount of effort that Tedi (💚) and everyone else at BFB put into having us there.
From my limited perspective, I thought the food drive was a huge success and I really hope that this trip goes again next year. I (without having researched) don’t think that Rice’s Group International Service projects really go to urban areas, but I think that it’s an amazing opportunity to compare cities globally to Houston and to think about how we can make a greater impact locally and in our every day lives. I’ve noticed throughout the trip that people have become much more conscious of personal food waste and have been working to avoid it. I think that the length of the trip also means that we are a lot closer than we would have been on a shorter trip and we have become much more comfortable calling each other out for things relating to the issue of food waste as well as things pertaining to site leading.
I know that I’ve been pretty positive on the blog so far, but there have definitely been points when I felt like I wasn’t doing a very good job at leading the group or setting us up for a good holistic experience. It was harder than I thought it would be to balance leading with personal time and being a participant on my (our – hi, Ben) own trip and I wonder how much it affects the team dynamic or our impact here. Nonetheless, I am so grateful that Ben and I happened to sit at the same table in the Will Rice commons the day we met and he asked me to pursue this trip with him. I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting or invested partner and I feel like I might not have gotten the opportunity to get to know him otherwise.
On our last work day, we went to the America for Bulgaria Foundation (A benefactor of BFB) headquarters and we got to talk to them a little about the projects they sponsor and their general goals. Although the excursion was not strictly related to food banking, it gave me a lot of hope about what can be achieved when you have driven people working for a common goal in a receptive (?) environment. I’d like to take some time when we get back to Houston and appreciate similar efforts from organizations closer to my home base.
We had a lot of discussion about goals of and best practices in direct service experiences and if our presence was really worth it. I won’t make any statements about our direct impact here, but, if nothing else, I feel like we all personally gained something that we can take away from the trip and use to educate our own lives and the people around us. There were times when I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, by the depth of our participants’ input and the ways they forced me to think about aspects of what we were doing that I had never considered before. I can be a little bit (arguably a lot a bit) single minded and too self assured in my understanding of social issues and I felt I was constantly rethinking the way that I approach topics.
I know everything I’ve said in this post has been exceptionally broad. I am so grateful to have been on this trip and been able to get away from the business of my life back home, which can become a little self involved. I am sad to be leaving, but excited to see where life takes me and to be able to share 9 new perspectives when I get back.
Carrie and Tsanka cutting into the goodbye cake BFB got us after the food drive
Carrie and Scarlett on camelback in a public park
A view of Vitosha mountain from the base of the aptly named Vitosha Boulevard